MOTU Classics.Com:
Snake Man-At-Arms Review

After writing up Spector’s review, I thought I was good to go on having to write about “controversial” MOTU figures for awhile. Well, silly me, I forgot about June’s Snake Man-At-Arms. Though he was slammed as soon as he debuted, Snake Man-At-Arms is actually a huge win for collectors.

Any time that the collectorbase sees something it doesn’t like, it roars up (and makes a face not to unlike Snake Man-At-Arms here) and says so. How vocal or how many collectors speak out is up for debate, but the answer is almost always the same. No changes can be made.

We’ve had some success with altered final touches here and there, Moss Man’s ears, an accessory or deco change, but more often than not we’re told that “by the time you see it, it’s far too late”. Snake Man-At-Arms, love him or still hate him, smashed that typical cycle. Collector response pretty much sent Snake Man-At-Arms back to the drawing board. Maybe it was special circumstances – after SDCC, Powercon, and NYCC, Mattel was just so far ahead on the reveals that a rare opportunity presented itself, but in the end the Four Horsemen & Mattel decided to have another crack at him and the figure got a pretty extensive overhaul from his NYCC debut. Whether it was enough to make him a worthwhile figure will be up to each of us to decide. For me, it did, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

First, you should know that Man-At-Arms is my all-time favorite MOTU character. I really love a lot of the lesser-knowns, but I think each of us tend to have a favorite character from the main cast. Guest stars and recurring supporting cast can add flavor, but if we like something we usually identify with someone that’s there all the time. Dr. McCoy, Winston Zeddemore, Obi-Wan, etc. For my MOTU, Man-At-Arms is the hands down best character in Masters of the Universe. Just maybe not when he’s a snake.

Normally, I’d be excited about alternate versions of Man-At-Arms. A young captain of the guard or the (impossible) movie version. That said, I don’t have a ton of excitement for Snake MAA. He’s kinda not MAA, y’know? I’d much rather have a redeco in his silver, MO2K snake-bustin’ armor – which brings me to the first problem that spawned the “collector revolt” in the first place.

A good toy line needs cheap repaints. Sometimes because certain characters can be done as cheap repaints, sometimes because we want multiple versions with slight changes, sometimes just because some minor change can make for a fun figure. I’m going to buy that GITD Robocop from NECA. I’ve bought and enjoyed several DCUC Batmen – heck, when I temporarily trimmed the shelf down to less than 50 DCUC figures, three Batmen still made the cut over unique characters. Cheap repaints are not a bad thing.

But they are for MOTU. It’s partially the price, but I think it’s the subscription model too. With the all-in subscription, we’re all buying everything and that means a minimum level of value has to be maintained. When Snake MAA debuted back at NYCC late last year, you would’ve been hard pressed to find anyone who felt his value was on par with that of the other releases thus far. (And it’s not so much what $20 will get you, but what $20 will get you compared to other figures in the line).

When Mattel presented Snake MAA to us, he featured a new head sculpt, a slight redeco, one old accessory, and one new accessory. Now, I’m a little biased – I think part of the disdain was also likely caused by his being an MO2K variant and from a fairly unpopular MO2K story line at that. Personally, I don’t mind that he died (or how) in the bios. It’s a continuity that spans millenniak people are going to die. I’m actually more annoyed that so many characters are thousands of years old!). But, whatever the reason, Snake MAA didn’t have a perceived value on par with other figures in the line, even heavy re-use figures like Battleground Evil-Lyn. That negative response is what ultimately saved this figure. Continue to Page 2

21 thoughts on “MOTU Classics.Com:
Snake Man-At-Arms Review

  1. I just lost my geek card… I was reading what you wrote about supporting cast (“Dr. McCoy, Winston Zeddemore, Obi-Wan …”) and thought to myself “Yeah. Hank really is one of the best X-Men…”

    Great review, thanks.

    1. you might have lost your trek card, but the geek card? that’s still firmly in pocket. no worries man.

      1. why can’t it be the “two birds, one stone” approach of covering two characters in two separate franchises* with similar names?

        *(that X-Trek crossover where they *had* to use that double response gag aside.)

  2. I think Mattel should debut the new figures early enough so fans can get a say like with SMAA. When you consider how often the fans find the QC issues as well, it would be a way to go.

  3. His mouth looks like a smaller version of Leech’s.

    Even with the different limbs and different armor shade, it’s still not worth it to me. A helmetless head would have sealed the deal though.

    1. Yeah, that was the obvious way to go here.
      Almost no one even cares about the Snake angle anyway.

      This should’ve just been a helmless Duncan variant, and that been that.
      Give the ring to literally ANY future Snake Man.

      All that said, it really turned out an awesome base MAA figure, that will be even cooler whenever we get the arm cannon released!

  4. Totally agreed with the (Revised, “Fan-created”) Snake MAA love here.

    I even went the extra distance of swapping out Duncan’s face into the new, more detailed helm, and yeah, he’s pretty much my go-to MAA now as well.

    “Easy” repaints are pretty . . . errr, easy in MotU, it’s just that the powers that be have chosen poor paths for the most part. I really like BG Lyn, but most of the others have been missed opportunities IMO.

    (Man-E-Faces was a prime candidate for an easy repaint until Toyguru mucked things up with the 50/50 voting thing.)

    But yeah, stuff like cardback Faker with a new face sculpt and one new cool accessory, the opposite color scheme Ram Man (when we get to him), even a Camo Khan would be easy to work into the line as an optional Snake Warrior with a bonus Camo scheme upcoming Snake 2-pack head. Hordak in Filmation colors. 200x deco Skeletor with cape, Alcala head, the double swords. TONS of repaint potential for Draego (gold, green, purple, whatever). Black variant Grizzlor with the previously-axed bonus head and maybe extra attachments for Hordak’s arm. MYP Teela with green shoulder pads and long ponytail . . .

    I mean, the list goes on and on.

  5. I was torn over Snake MAA too. Like you, I thought the original MAA was this incredible toy; I hadn’t felt that way about a Mattel figure since DCUC Deathstroke. But when I got Snake Duncan, the original’s armor suddenly looked “bad.” The color, the lack of paint highlights…

    At the same time, Snake MAA didn’t really “WOW!” me like I was expecting. The tech parts on the arms are cool, but the armor sat kind of fiddly on the bicep and forearm. The extra sculpt on the Trap Jaw elbow made the “accordion” effect of the elbow armor not work as well as I wanted it to.

    I ended up taking the armor, both feet, and the mace from Snake MAA and popping them onto the original MAA. I miss the longer loincloth, but now I can say I have the best MAA I could want (until we get the 200X arm cannon).

    So yeah. I like Snake MAA…because he made the original MAA look better.

  6. Excellent review, great pics. Natch. You’ve made the figure grow on me, and he hasn’t even arrived at my house yet! Really looking forward to getting him (and the other June figures) now!

    While we’re on the subject of cheap reapints, how’s this for an idea: since we’ve got Granamyr coming up later this year, howzabout a transparent “Wyrd of Crystal” Man-At-Arms, with cursed Randor bust and swappable “disguised” Skeletor head?

  7. I still don’t understand why so many peole don’t like this MAA. I got mine today and I can’t stop looking at him.
    May be is because I’m such a Duncan fan (even if he gets killed and turn into a reptile), yet I can’t help liking it.
    I just going to ad extra armor to his right leg, and paint black the vents on the face plate.

  8. Battle Catman,

    By the way, I forgot to say, that for people who want to change the short lioncloth to the longone, it’s not very hard.

    All the lioncloths can be change from one figure to another by cutting on the side with a knife and then glueing it with super glue (crazy glue).

  9. While I admit swapping the body parts around makes this a much cooler figure in the line, I passed because it was just a random variant to me. Had they included a normal Duncan head, I might have bought one, but my collection seems to be avoiding the more techno-based characters. Even my Trapjaw has been stripped back to his basic/pre-cybernetic state, and most of the armor tech can be passed off as medieval decoration, or ignoring a few bits of kibble. I guess I’m just too into Game of Thrones mindset to allow any “advanced tech” right now?

  10. For me, Snake Man-At-Arms is simultaneously cool and frustrating. The new bodyswap pieces definitely bring out much more of a ‘cool’ factor, but the use of the trap-jaw left forearm also results in the use of the same hand/fist, that can’t grasp anything, which limits him to being a one weapon user (yes, i’m aware he has a blaster in his arm armor, but that’s a cop-out excuse for not being able to grip a weapon). Frustratingly though his armor bits don’t match up with the palace guards like I thought they would, they’re even lighter with gold paint accents, so I can’t use those pieces for a filmation MAA swap either. This also means the regular MAA heads don’t match up as well due to paint detailing (dark orange vs. gold, as well as dark blue vs. lighter blue) but luckily that doesn’t look as out of place, since the first thing I did when I got him was pull off the snake head and put the vintage style head on him. Also, the trap-jaw forarms also cause the arm armor to not fit as well. Adding in the sword & pistol from the first weapons pack to fully outfit him, and he’s on my alternates shelf for now. I may look into one of those MYP/200x custom heads for him at some point, haven’t decided yet. I will say however that I wish they’d colored the left thigh ‘armor’ same as the boot to match the full ‘armor’ look, but I digress. Really the yellow boot & forearm annoy me slightly, but as long as the armor stays on those parts it’s fine.

    As for the comic he came with, was pretty disappointing overall. The first comic had a fairly coherent plot that progressively moved forward. This one was very weak in its story. Basically “Oh hey, I’ve watched you beat a couple guys up, lemme introduce you to my buddies. We’re going to go fight now *dies*” “Oh, the secret to defeating the snake men is this one casually mentioned spell/object! Well, that’s all the info I needed to know, screw you guys, i’m going home [/Cart-Man]” with frames/lines dedicated to their mary sue characters. Very little cohesion or even plot, was primarily used strictly as art fanwank for the 30th anniversary mary sues, EXCEPT NO DRAEGO or any other dragons for that matter. No explanation for anything.

    What it comes down to is: If you wanted to buy snake MAA for the comic, save your money, it’s not worth it. If you want a MAA figure, the first version is all you’ll need IMO. Especially because you’ll need to replace the snake head if you’d planned to use him as your MAA anyway, plus he only comes with one weapon instead of 3, and only has one usable hand. But if you’ve got the heads to use and the extra weapons to give and don’t mind only one usable hand, the buck is pretty sweet.

  11. OK, I’m so confused by this figure, from the logistics standpoint.

    NYCC was Oct. ’11, right? By every single comment since, ya know, ever, this should not exist. They can’t (supposedly) change a simple paint deco without over a year lead time, yet in under 8 months they managed to swap out ‘normal MAA’ for all those different parts?

    I mean, hooray for doing that, I think it does make the figure better (as a set of I’m not onboard with the story of Duncan’s death/snakeifaction/blah blah but trying to view the figure objectively) and had I MAA I think I would plop the Duncan head on this guy so fast it would be insane.

    *sigh* my head hurts. 🙂

    1. yes, this cat kind of spits in the face of their self-confessed turnaround time. the defense they would use is “well, all these parts existed already, unlike a poison ivy-type case where we would need all new sculpting” but the truth of the industry, the work to move molds into place and pump them full of resin, etc… doesn’t really make that “easy” in the sense that joe average would interpret the word… this guy represents easily two or three different molds being pulled out to get the parts tooled… unlike the standard fig, who near as we can tell, tops out around 2.

      (i’m guessing there, but given scott’s various ramblings, i have the idea in my head that the individual molds are fairly true to the buck figure you buy, and then a new mold is needed for extra pieces, i.e. SMAA would need the techno buck mold, the standard buck mold, the MAA armor mold, and possibly a whole new mold for the serpent ring… that’s kind of a lot of work.)

      on the whole, i enjoy the figure. i don’t think of him as a mutated duncan, just the snake version of maa, and he wears the armor kind of in mocking, but i also fleshed out a long while back a story on eternian metals so for me personally, it’s much easier to explain weapon/armor motifs than for the meager storytellers at mattel. i hooked him up the mungous sword culled from the warmarchine stryker fig several years ago, and he looks great. my only real gripe would be the odd way the vambrace fits the techno buck, but then, we asked for that… so were i to be the kind of guy who says “the general public are dumber than hammered feces” while absolutely correct, that’d kind of make me a douche… and that’s just not me, right? 😉

      1. I’m derailing into the technical for a tiny bit. 🙂

        What I have seen, plastic injection molds (tools, tooling) can be done in several ways.

        1. the big-a** tool. A huge chunk of steel, designed for ‘one shot’ molding. These can weigh tons and are indeed a massive effort to run up to the injection machine. The model car kits of your youth (or old Aurora kits, the AMT Enterprise, etc) were/are of this nature.

        2. the small tool. Again, steel, but weighing more in the hundreds of pounds as opposed to the thousands. Still work to jack into place but it’s not an all day job to swap molds. These molds were the kind usually used for clear parts like car kit windshields. Usually there would be multiple kits worth of the parts to speed production so one tool might crank out 6 kits worth of windshields/headlights/etc. This may also be used with items using insert injection molding or different materials.

        3. the modular tool. This is where you can save money by having a big-a** hunk of tool steel but instead of carving that into a single-use mold you have wells you insert smaller tooling (I understand these to be made of beryllium or other metal as opposed to the very costly high grade tool steel). The advantage is you can swap out the inner tools while leaving the main steel in place.

        (why tool steel? To handle the heat and pressure of the injection process. Depending on how long a mold is intended to last, the level of detail, required speed of cranking out parts to maximize profit, etc. Tooling can be made from all manner of different materials including aluminum and resin filled with aluminum powder.)

        Now, I have no idea how things are done at the Chinese factories. I do not work for Mattel and I’ve had only a very limited time working at a plastic factory. Someone may want to dissect a MOTU (or DCU) figure and check on this but I’m pretty sure they use the modular tool system for the bulk of a figure. The heads and other specialty body parts are likely done with the aluminum-filled resin ‘disposable’ tooling.

        Man I would LOVE a tour of the factory…

  12. Poor Duncun but an excellent variant of him. That serpent ring! Well at least we can except a snake variant of Teela & Mekaneck later down the line. Glad that the 2nd mini comic came with him. Cool pics as always.

  13. I have no idea of who this guy is (yeah, Duncan) since I watched little of the MO2K series. Kind of glad that I know about that head swap but he’s still going into the trade list.

  14. I think the lopsided armor is to cut down on weight. More armor means more protection, but it also means slower movement. If you can cut it down to just the side you’re using as a shield (Duncan is obviously a righty), you can have all the protection and just half the weight.

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